06/06/10 — Mount Olive College seeing rapid campus growth

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Mount Olive College seeing rapid campus growth

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on June 6, 2010 1:50 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive College is taking a pro-active approach to the school's growing pains by securing additional housing for students and making other changes to improve campus life.

Increasing the school's traditional student population has been one of MOC President Dr. Philip Kerstetter's goals since his arrival. But even after opening two new dormitories in the fall of 2009, some students had to spend at least part of the school year living in the Sleep Inn on N.C. 55 in Mount Olive.

The college has already worked out an agreement with the Sleep Inn to provide overflow housing for about 50 students in 2010-11. The school has hired additional staff to be physically present at the hotel, and the insurance and other considerations have been addressed, Kerstetter said.

"What we're doing is creating another housing location, so to speak," he said.

The school will give incoming freshmen priority for on-campus housing where possible. Officials can guess at the number of students who will return to campus each year, but until the registration period in August, they cannot know for certain how many students will require housing.

"We never know ultimately what we're going to get until they show up," Kerstetter said.

The need for overflow housing says the school's growth is moving in the right direction, demonstrating that "people are perceiving Mount Olive College as a really attractive place to be," he said.

As a result, the college is improving some of its facilities, including the campus cafeteria, to make on-campus living more convenient for students. As enrollment increases, more faculty and staff may be added to accommodate the demand, too.

Additionally, the school will implement this fall a freshman student success program test-piloted during the spring semester. The program is designed to provide freshmen with a good first-year experience, which increases the likelihood that students will return to college as sophomores, Kerstetter said.

Mount Olive College is also expecting more students to be eligible to return for the 2010-11 school year, and some of those students can now receive additional scholarship funding. The school is slightly changing the way it handles some of its scholarships, dedicating more money to students who excelled in their classes in the previous year, Kerstetter said.

The college could also eventually build up to four more dormitories as recommended by the campus long-range development plan, but college officials do not want to be hasty in making multimillion-dollar investments, Kerstetter said.

"We'll build them like you eat an elephant, one step at a time," he said.

Even as the school faces a period of growth, the college will remain dedicated to preserving its small class size, personal attention to students and other factors that set it apart, the president added.

"We're not going to be a UNC-Chapel Hill, but that's not what our mission is," Kerstetter said.